frequently asked questions

rental policies

What is the deposit / cancellation policy?
Reservations are not confirmed until a deposit is received. We accept payment by major credit cards (American Express, Visa, Master Card), with a 4% additional fee. With sufficient advanced booking (14 days), we accept personal checks as payments. The amount of the deposit is 50% of the total reservation. The balance is due sixty (60) days prior to your arrival date. You will be emailed a reminder. If the balance is paid within 5 days of notification, we will cancel the reservation and you will forfeit the deposit on file. We recommend that you purchase Travel Insurance. Rates for your stay DO NOT include the 12% IVA Tax. All rates are in US Dollars. In cases where the arrival date is less than (60) sixty days the total amount of the reservation is due at the time of booking.

transportation

How do I get to Playa del Carmen?
Almost exclusively, guests will arrive via the Cancun airport. If you have not made air arrangements yet, be sure to check Spirit Airlines (www.SpiritAir.com) as they are not usually listed with Travelocity, Expedia, or the other major travel engines, but they offer affordable service (comparatively speaking) through their hub in Ft. Lauderdale. Be careful with Spirit, they nickel-n-dime you to death with charges not just for additional baggage, but also for travel insurance and seat assignments.
What should I know about Customs & Immigration?
You will arrive at Terminal 3 with all international flights. You disembark and follow the crowd to the immigrations lines. At times you will just walk up to the counter and at other times it is like waiting in line to ride Space Mountain on the first day of summer break. Be patient and don’t use your cell phone when you are called. Americans will have no problems at all getting through immigration. If they ask you anything at all it will usually just be the length of your stay. Be sure to keep the bottom stub of your visitors form as you will need this as you leave the country.

After clearing immigration, you will pick up your checked baggage and clear customs. Here they are checking to see what you are bringing into the country. They even X-ray your bags again (sometimes) but mostly rely on your declarations. For 99% of the visitors you will have nothing to declare. When setting up this condo, we brought so much stuff on many trips that they questioned whether we were bringing only personal items with me. A couple of times they required that we justify the value of the items we were bringing in because we appeared to be over the limit (clearly we were), but they seemed to spoon-feed an amount of $500 in value which costs about $30 in tariffs and some paperwork, but no further problems.
What is available for ground transportation from the airport?
You will not need a car in Playa, although there is parking at the building if you have one. Most guests will look for transport from the airport, so here are some options:
  • ADO Bus – $8 US one-way trip per person. After clearing customs, walk with the flow past allthe rental cars, tour salesmen, etc (just ignore them or they will pester you) and as soon as you getto the outside, you will see busses to the right just past the Coconuts bar. These leave about every hour from the airport and take you to the bus station in Playa. The buses are comfortable, air conditioned, and have bathrooms. Baggage is stored underneath so there is plenty of room. It is about a 45 minute drive and then there is a 10 minute walk from the station to the condo. Instead of walking, it’s also about a 10 minute cab ride, which won’t save you any time but might be easier if it is very hot or if you have a lot of luggage to carry. Count on around $3 US for cab fare, and taxis are plentiful at the bus station (see “specific location of the condo” for directions on telling the cab driver where to take you.) If you walk, just exit the bus station on to La Quinta (the pedestrian shopping road) and turn left. Count the streets down to 12th street and follow the directions below in the “specific location of the condo” section.
  • Private Van or Taxi – The ground transportation at the airport is fairly well regulated, so there are not many options. Gray Line must have an exclusive contract or something, so the taxi ride is about $75 into Playa (the return trip to the airport can be with a private taxi like you see all over Playa and the fare is only $35-45 US, but these taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers at the airport… sounds like somebody got paid off for a sweet contract, huh?). Group vans should be available that are a little cheaper but you will be with other people and thus may make multiple stops. The advantage here over a bus ride is that it is usually door-to-door service directly to the condo.
Where exactly are the condos?
The way to describe the location (street addresses are more like descriptions than they are numbers) of the condo is directly on the ocean between 12th and 14th Streets. In Spanish, it is fairly easy: “Avenida Primera, en la Playa entre calle doce y catorce” – you shouldn’t have to use this as most drivers will speak very good English, but if you let them read this, that will get you there.

You take the highway into Playa and turn on Constituyentes (“Constitution” in English). Head all the way almost to the beach and turn right on 1st Ave (there Gran Porto Real all-inclusive is here). Go all the way to 12th street and make a left, and it dead ends at the ocean and the Blue Parrott club so you must turn left. After the Blue Parrott is the Coco Maya club and then the condo building. It’s called “Ocean Plaza” but is not very well marked. There are 5 or so parking spaces off the street so it is easy to spot, as this is a luxury. If you pass the Playa Palms Beach Hotel you have gone too far, but you won’t miss it. There will probably be a rope or chain restricting access to the parking spaces, but make it clear to the security guard that you are coming in and he will let you in. If you must, say “Señor Tim” and they should recognize that, but there are very few problems with people poaching these spaces, so the guards will believe you and then recognize you for the remainder of the stay. Unfortunately, few of the guards will speak any English, but they seem to do a good job with just Spanish.

the condos

Where is the parking and building access?
There is 24 hour security at the building. Guards protect the beach area and loungers, as well as pedestrian traffic on to the property. Off-street parking is also available but not reserved for specific units. Since most guests do NOT have a car, there is usually adequate parking for all. At peak times such as when architects, designers, or other visitors are on site, guards will double-park cars to provide easy in/out access to residents.
Are beach chairs available?
Ocean Plaza provides beach loungers for use by guests of the building. Security guards will protect these chairs from unauthorized use. Beach umbrellas, as well as food/drink service is available from the Coco Maya Beach Club (in-room service is also available).
How can I listen to music and watch movies in the condos?
Remember to bring your iPod for music, as we provide a docking station to the stereo and have Bose speakers because they sound awesome even at lower volume levels (please respect others and limit your listening volumes). You can also plug your laptop into this cable and listen through our system. There’s a DVD player, too, so bring any favorites, especially for kids. Rental DVD’s in Playa will generally be limited and are mostly in Spanish.
Do the condos have Internet access?
Yes. Free WIFI is provided at all units.
Are the condos air conditioned?
Electricity is a scarce resource is extremely expensive in Mexico. To be energy conscious and to help us control costs, please use the air conditioning units only in occupied rooms. Closing bedroom doors during the day will help only the living area stay cool more efficiently. Even if the great room is extremely warm, the wall-mounted air conditioning unit can cool it down quite quickly. If you do choose to keep the condo cool round the clock, we recommend 25°(the units operate on the Celsius scale) while you are out and 22° while inside the unit. When you check out, please turn all units OFF except the main room, leave all bedroom doors open, and set the dining room a/c unit to 25°.
What are the noise levels in Playa del Carmen at night?
Playa is a vibrant, late-night city. People will be on the beach at all hours of the day and night, and the clubs may have DJ’s playing beachside music until wee hours of the morning. The bedrooms are surprisingly insulated from sound, although the living room is not. The a/c units provide additional white noise to make sleeping comfortable. Check out the “wave” feature of the a/c unit that cycles the fan speed up and down at random simulating the ocean breezes as a great white-noise sleep aid. If you are a particularly light sleeper, earplugs should do the trick.
How secure are the condos?
Please make sure the front door is in the locked position and can only be opened with the combination code (the deadbolt-like knob on the inside of the unit can be turned so the door is completely unlocked, so please be careful not to leave it this way). The sliding doors can only be completely secured by using the small, floor-level deadbolts that are on each door. The handle latch lock of the sliding doors should not be relied upon as the locking mechanism does not work well. Most items are safe on the patio, as there is very little crime. However, it is best not to invite petty theft by leaving valuables outside, especially not overnight.
What is the check out procedure?
We don’t require you do anything except turn all the a/c units off EXCEPT the dining room unit (set this one to 25°). You do not need to strip beds, take out garbage, empty the fridge, or anything else, as our housekeepers will come the day of your departure.

the town and culture

Is is safe to drink the water in Playa del Carmen?
Don’t Drink the Water – This is good advice, although you don’t really have to worry about ice in drinks, as almost all the restaurants in the tourist zone of Playa use purified water for their ice. I don’t want to give specific advice beyond this (talk to your own physician, especially if you have specific health problems or are pregnant), but let me say that I do not worry about rinsing my toothbrush and gargling with the tap water and I don’t have problems doing this. We have provided a purified water dispenser in the condo that has chilled and hot water.

You may also notice the problem we have with spotting on the glass sinks and the dishes. Mexican tap water is loaded with minerals, and this is a cleaning problem but is otherwise harmless (although years of exposure to this mineral combination has cased Mayans to grow less, and they are thus a very short people.)
What should I know about money and ATM machines?
Most seasoned travelers will tell you the best way to get foreign currency without paying a transaction fee is to get it directly from an ATM. Some US banks (Wachovia, for instance) will charge you 2% of the transaction for this (outrageous) but smaller banks usually do not.

The exchange rate it usually fairly easy: 10 pesos to 1 US dollar. This makes it easy to do in your head and to keep track of money (a 200 peso bill is like a $20 bill). For larger purchases, they might even give you as much as 10.5 pesos to the dollar, but this difference is insignificant on casual purchases.

Almost everyone will accept pesos or dollars. If you pay in dollars, you will probably get pesos in change (or a combination of pesos and dollars). Some vendors do not like the old US money (either the old style/design or just bills that look old) and will refuse to accept it. Old, torn, or marked Mexican bills are also frequently rejected (if you get one as change, you are welcome to ask for a different bill rather than be forced to take a bill that might not be accepted elsewhere, even at a bank). Vendors also like smaller bills, as they don’t usually have change for bills larger than 200 pesos.

Unless they run out of American dollars, you should be able to make withdrawals at the ATM in pesos or dollars at most machines. The one we know offers dollars is located up 16th street (Negrosal Restraurant is on the corner at 1st Av) almost to the convenience store at the corner of La Quinta (5th) and 16th Street. There is a closer ATM in a booth just outside the Blue Parrott entrance, but it doesn’t have the option to withdraw US dollars and it also limits you to a $3000 peso withdrawal.
Will my cell phone work in Playa del Carmen?
A lot of US cell phones will work here, but don’t expect reliability like you have at home. You might be able to receive calls but your voice mail alerts (or Blackberry emails) might not come through or you might not be able to place calls. If your service is active to dial internationally and you want to call the US, you probably need to dial “011” and then the 10 digit US phone number. You might need to call your service provider in advance of your trip to activate international dialing. The back bedrooms of the condo seem to be dead spots for cell coverage.

We have provided a Mexican cell phone for your occasional use. We add $10 of credit to the phone occasionally, but the minutes expire in 60 days if not used, so there may be none at all available. You can reload the phone with minutes at any OXXO store, if you like… minutes are cheap. This could be useful if you are planning tours or making/receiving any local calls for whatever reason. The local cell phone’s number, if you need to give it out, is 984-119-3979. It’s probably not the best method to give this number for emergencies to your family at home in the US, as a lot of American’s don’t have international calling from their phones anyway. Once reliable internet is set up at the condo, there will be a Vonage phone line that will allow incoming/outgoing calls just like it is a US phone. This document will be updated and redistributed when that happens.
Where can I get toiletries and basic items?
Walmart and MEGA are within walking distance. However, you may want to catch a cab on the way back if carrying many items. The fare is regulated at 20 pesos ($2 US).

The closest liquor store and bagged ice is around the corner at 16th Street right next to the ATM (up from the Negrosal Restaurant). Buying duty-free at the airport on the way in or at the Mega or Walmart will save you a few bucks from buying on La Quinta.
Are there any cultural differences to be aware of?
We encourage you to celebrate the Mexican culture and appreciate some differences you might notice. Don’t let them aggravate you and please don’t perpetuate the “rude American” stereotype with bad behavior. Here are some things we’ve noticed:
  • Personal space – the beach is everyone’s property here. People may set up a chair right under a palm tree that appears to be “yours” or also walk or sit closer to you than you might expect. This may not be truly a cultural phenomenon, but you will notice it happening. Security guards and waiters might walk on the patio (or even take a break in one of the chairs). We have tried to minimize this with the planting/landscape and the furniture placement. Sundays, especially, are the days when local families don’t work and are at the beach. You can “save” spaces on the beach by putting towels and/or chairs where you want, and people will respect this. Note – the security guards might offer to ask people to move from beneath the coconut trees. We choose to decline this and instead respect that the beach is public. We even allow use of the hammock as long as there isn’t any abuse. It just seems a little more respectful to acknowledge that the sand and trees were here long before this condo ever was, and ownership of the beach does not come with the condo purchase.
  • Restaurant service – you will never receive the bill for dinner until you ask for it. “La cuenta por favor” will do it, or just use the universal sign language of pantomiming like you are signing your signature on your palm. They will bring the check then. 
  • Topless bathing – this is probably not news, but you will see topless sun bathers on the beach in Mexico. If Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction offended you, then you better wear a blindfold.
Is there someone who can help with booking tours and providing local information?
We have the services of a local expert named Luciano. He is very familiar with the region and can help you with booking tours, housekeeping needs, and any other assistance you may need. His cell phone number is 998-214-3599 and you may dial him direct from the house cell phone (he will be listed in the contacts). If you would like a mid-stay housekeeping and you have not scheduled one already, Luciano can arrange this for you with a day’s notice.
What type of health care is available in Playa del Carmen?
Remember to bring your daily medicines with you. Pharmacies are all over the place, including WalMart, and sell items over the counter that might require a prescription in the US. It also might be cheaper. While we don’t know of any specific fraud, the buyer should beware as the controls we rely on in the US are not in place in Mexico. There is a gym a few blocks away called “the Gym”. It is in the Porto Playa building on 1st Avenue just past 14th street. Daily admission fees apply, and these are probably negotiable if you are planning on hitting the gym every day for a week or more.

personal safety and scam alerts

What should I look out for at restaurants and bars?
While there is very little crime in the tourist district of Playa, you may encounter less-than-honest servers at local restaurants/bars. Scams to watch out for are:
  • They will charge you for more drinks than you actually order (especially if you are in a large group that stays for a long time)
  • They will write a total on the bill and circle it, but it will be more than the actual sum of the detail of the items on the bill.
  • They will tell you that no tip (a.k.a. “propina” or “servicio”) is included when in fact it has been added.
  • They try to charge an additional fee (sometimes as high as 30%!) for using a credit card.
Insist on an itemized bill and note if a tip is included or not. Sometimes you might even ask to see the
menu to find written policies there. Do a quick calculation of the math. By the way, tax is always included
in the menu prices and therefore should not be added to any restaurant bill.
What should I look out for at gas stations?
Gasoline in Mexico is sold by the government at stations called Pemex. The price is the same everywhere, so you don’t have to shop around for price. The things to watch here are:
  • Make sure the pump starts at zero
  • If you give the attendant a large bill, count the money out loud as you give it to them. They are less likely to claim you gave them 200 when you really gave them 500 pesos.
  • Make sure they actually pump the quantity you are paying for.
  • Tips, even just a few pesos, are customary and appreciated by the attendants.
What should I know about pick pockets?
Crowded areas, especially night clubs, are sometimes at risk for pick pockets. This is true of most tourist areas, as thieves know you carry a lot of cash.
What should I know about speeding tickets?
If you get pulled over, the police will threaten to take your driver’s license and/or your license plate until the ticket is paid. This is legal, but you can probably avoid this. Keep small bills totaling about $20 US in one pocket. Pull this out and tell him you would like to pay the ticket but this is all the money you have. Do NOT let him see a large wad of cash in your other pocket. He will probably tell you that will be fine and accept this as payment for your ticket. Note: this method is folklore that we are passing along with caution, but you attempt it in practice at your own risk.
What should I know about beach vendors?
Be careful about purchasing water sports or tours from dudes offering you deals from the beach. They occasionally will require you to sit through a meeting (sold as a “free breakfast”) before you will get the deal. If they ask questions about your marital status, this is a sign of a time-share salesman. Some guys are indeed just trying to make an honest living, but be on the lookout and communicate fully with any vendor.